Bonding bill heads toward a vote -- and possible veto
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's Democratic-led Legislature is ready to send Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty a public works funding bill he has indicated he doesn't like, setting the stage for a possible veto.
Legislative leaders plan votes in the full House and Senate today on borrowing $925 million for state construction projects -- $100 million more than Pawlenty wants. When cash is figured in, the bill would cost more than $1 billion.
"This bill is fiscally irresponsible and has misguided priorities," Pawlenty said in a statement Tuesday night after a House-Senate conference committee unanimously approved the measure.
The governor will not say whether he would veto the entire bill or just veto projects he does not like.
"Their inability to say no led to a seriously bloated laundry list," Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty's chief complaints are that the bill funds local projects -- such as a Bemidji events center and a Moorhead volleyball center -- but not some veterans' hospital needs he recommends.
"That would be a reflection of some pretty deeply misplaced priorities," he said.
The bill includes $6 million for a vocational building at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing and $2 million for port development.
Tired of waiting
After a House-Senate conference committee gave its blessing to the bonding bill Tuesday evening, the chief legislative negotiators said they grew tired waiting for Pawlenty to tell them what projects he could or could not support, so opted to go ahead and send him their bill.
Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, the Senate's chief negotiator, said: "It's very upsetting to me. He has to decide at some point."
Once the House and Senate deliver the bill to Pawlenty, likely on Thursday, he has three days to sign or veto it.
The House's top finance lawmaker said Pawlenty tells groups he supports their projects, but then tells lawmakers he does not. "If we were to add up all the projects he said he supported, it probably would be $3 billion," said Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids.
Pawlenty told reporters he told lawmakers not to spend too much.
"We've repeatedly warned them not to assume that, and that the whole bill could be vetoed on the theory that we're not going to clean up their bill for them," he said.
Much of the conference committee discussion Tuesday night centered on a proposed new state park along northeastern Minnesota's Lake Vermilion. The committee bill contains no money for the park, one of Pawlenty's pet projects, because a price to buy the land has not been negotiated.
March 15 deadline
Negotiators missed a March 15 deadline for deciding on a sales price, but it has been extended to near the Legislature's May 19 adjournment date.
Pawlenty said a Department of Natural Resources appraisal estimated the land value at $13 million or $14 million, but its owner, US Steel, pegged its value at around $20 million.
The bill is heavy on college and university projects. The University of Minnesota campuses would receive $131 million, while Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system facilities would get $208 million from the state.
Projects in the House-Senate conference committee bonding bill:
Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing vocational building, $6 million
Lake Zumbro restoration,
Alexandria Technical College law enforcement center addition, $10.5 million
Bemidji State University Sattgast science building addition, $8.9 million
Dakota County Technical College transportation, technology laboratory, $200,000
Lake Superior Community and Technical College health science center addition, $11 million
Mesabi Range Community and Technical College shop space addition and renovation, $5 million
Minnesota State University Moorhead Lommen Hall renovation
Minnesota State University Moorhead Livingston Lord Library renovation and design
Minnesota West Community and Technical College Worthington field house design
Minnesota State Community and Technical College Moorhead trades addition and design library
Mesabi Range Community and Technical College shop space addition
Ridgewater College lab and classroom design and renovation
Red Lake School, Red Lake Indian Reservation loan
Browns Valley flood hazard mitigation grants
Flood hazard mitigation grants
Crookston flood mitigation
Red River Basin digital elevation model
Big Bog State Recreation Area
State trail rehabilitation, development and acquisition
Drill Core Library, Hibbing
Water and Soil Resources Board, including Red River Basin land easement program
Clean water legacy, including Grass Lake and Lake Titlow
Seed Potato inspection building, East Grand Forks
Red Rock transit corridor, southeast Twin Cities
Moorhead volleyball center
Rush Line transit
Interstate 94 transitway, Washington County
Dakota county regional trail
Chemical dependency treatment facility west-central Minnesota
Ah Gwah Ching, Walker redevelopment center
Minnesota Veterans Home, Silver Bay master plan renovation
Bemidji Regional Event Center
Veterans' memorial, Virginia
Worthington agriculture bioscience center
Duluth Entertainment Convention Center
Itasca County infrastructure
City of Bayport sewer system
State Capitol Bureau reporter Scott Wente contributed to this story.